Belanger's Turn to Move to Center Stage

Times Staff Writer

King centers were moved around Sunday like chess pieces as the team tries to combat its ever-growing injury problems in the middle.

Eric Belanger will move from the checking line to the top line in place of center Derek Armstrong, who will be out at least three games because of a broken ring finger in his left hand.

The Kings are still without two other centers -- Jason Allison, out since January with whiplash, and Jozef Stumpel, out since Oct. 25 with a deep bruise in his chest.

Belanger has played on the No. 1 line at times throughout his career. He began his first eight NHL games on the top line when Stumpel held out to start the 2000-01 season.

Belanger, who has three goals and two assists, will have Ziggy Palffy on his right and Alexander Frolov on his left.

"I don't need to put any pressure on myself," Belanger said. "I just have to go out there and have fun. You always want to look for [Palffy] but you don't want to change your game. When you have the puck and you have a shot, just take it."

Center Esa Pirnes, the Kings' sixth-round selection in the 2003 draft, will move from the fourth line to the second line with veterans Luc Robitaille and Trent Klatt.

Pirnes had 23 goals and 14 assists last season for Tappara of the Finnish Elite League.

Brad Chartrand will center the checking line with Sean Avery and Ian Laperriere. Jon Sim will center the fourth line.


Armstrong, listed as week to week, will see a hand specialist today. Armstrong was going to the net in the final seconds of Saturday's game against the St. Louis Blues when he was hit in the hand by Palffy's slap shot.

Armstrong was tied for the team lead with six goals.

"It's disappointing but you have to take the good with the bad," he said. "It's bad times right now but there's good times ahead too."


To increase their options up front, the Kings are expected to recall forward Michael Cammalleri from their Manchester (N.H.) minor league affiliate today. Cammalleri was sent down Nov. 7 after going scoreless in two games with the Kings. He had four goals in five games with Manchester.

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